Last summer’s Jimmy Butler trade was a good move for the Timberwolves even though they parted with several promising young talents, writes Britt Robson of The Athletic. Minnesota swung a draft night blockbuster with the Bulls, giving up Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen for Butler and Justin Patton.
The deal paid dividends for the Wolves, who reached the playoffs for the first time in 13 years, and Robson contends that Butler has already become the second-best player in franchise history, trailing only Kevin Garnett.
On the down side, Butler missed 23 games because of injuries and was a steadfast defender of coach Tom Thibodeau, creating a rift with some of his young teammates. Robson advises the front office to delay renegotiating Butler’s contract, which pays him nearly $20.5MM next season with a $19.8MM player option for 2019/20, to see how the situation plays out.
Robson passes along more info from Minnesota in his mailbag column:
- Rumors that Thibodeau could get fired this summer are premature, although the locker room has become increasingly divided between loyalists who previously played for Thibodeau in Chicago and younger players who are turned off by his abrasive style. However, replacing Thibodeau now would anger Butler and Taj Gibson and leave the team at a disadvantage heading into the draft and free agency. Robson believes Thibodeau, who still has three years left on his contract, could be in danger if the Wolves don’t move up the Western Conference ladder next season.
- It will be surprising if Karl-Anthony Towns is put on the trade market this summer, even if the rumors about his unhappiness in Minnesota are true. Towns is just 22 and is under team control for at least two more seasons. A suggested deal for the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard wouldn’t work for the Wolves because there’s no good way to replace Towns in the middle. Towns reportedly wants a bigger role in the offense and less “tough love” from Thibodeau and Butler.
- Minnesota probably should have passed on an extension for Andrew Wiggins last summer and dealt with him as a restricted free agent. Robson suggests Thibodeau may have been forced into the move by owner Glen Taylor, but adds that a trade is unlikely now because it would be difficult for the Wolves to get equal value in return.
- The team would almost certainly have to surrender a first-round pick to unload the contract of Gorgui Dieng, who is owed more than $48MM over the next three years. Thibodeau lost confidence in Dieng during the season and his playing time was cut nearly in half.